Monday, November 29, 2004

Who are "we"
After the election, I planned to write a rousing manifesto about what we needed to recover and take back the country. However, I was too burned out to do much more than scribble disjointed notes to myself and procrastinate. Weeks have passed now and many of my blogging betters have poured out page after page of good recommendations. At this point, rather than try to say something original, I think my best course would be look over the many good recommendations out there and lend my support to those I think are best and most likely to produce results.

Before I go into the specific proposals out there I'd like to point a potential source of confusion and unnecessary conflict. When we say "we" must do this or "we" must do that, there are at least four different we's involved in this discussion. The four groups are not identical, although here is considerable overlap between them. In addition, good objectives for one group might be terrible, even repugnant, for one or more of the others. The main belief we all share is the feeling that the Bush revolution and the style of politics that accompany it must be stopped.

Picture a Venn diagram, one of those figures of overlapping circles on a graph used to represent the intersections of sets. The background graph is the traditional left-right or liberal-conservative scale of American politics.

The first group fills an oval (red outline) that extends from somewhat right of center well to the left. This is the Democratic Party.

The second oval (green outline) extends from dead center almost to the left edge of the chart. This oval is wider than the Democratic Party oval as includes some people who don't fit well on the single axis liberal-conservative scale (I'll say more about them in a minute). This oval represents Liberals and Progressives.

The third oval (black outline) very closely matches the overlap between Liberals and Democrats. This is Left Blogistan. Left Blogistan is closer to the center than Right Blogistan, which starts about half way to the right wall and presses hard against the wall forming a vertical oval (they're not part of this discussion and therefore not on the chart).

The fourth group involved in our "what is to be done" discussion fills an oval (big friendly pink outline) that goes a bit further left that the Democrats and almost equally far to the right and above and below the traditional scale. This represents people of good will who want to end the dangerous level of confrontation in politics and fix the system. They can be found all across the traditional spectrum, except at the extremes, and in many areas of politics that don't easily fit on the scale, such a Libertarianism, some strains of Populism, and among many single issue constituencies like free speech advocates.

Naturally, reality will be messier than this. In reality each group will have empty spots, outliers, and very ragged borders (especially Left Blogistan). The actual overlap would be patchier, too. But you get the idea.

We're just not going to come up with one neat manifesto-like program that will suit all the constituencies. We shouldn't try. Anything that only contains what we all agree on would be so vague and wish-washy as to be meaningless. What we really need are four manifesti. We need the maturity to accept that our closest allies will disagree on some things and even work against us on some things. We need to the maturity to live with that and make clear-sighted distinctions between good, though temporary, alliances and bad, but attractive, access to power with a price.

Even within a single group we're likely to find strong disagreements over ultimate goals, preferred tactics, desirable alliances, and acceptable sacrifices. Between groups, the differences will run deeper and be more frequent. Each grouping has a different set of goals. The Democrats want to revitalize their party and return it to majority status. To do that, they are willing to make compromises and alliances that could shove some progressives out the door. The progressives want to advance certain issues that are close to their hearts. To do that they would like to take over the Democratic Party, but they will abandon it in droves if they feel too many important issues have been sold out. The sane government people want to end the dangerous confrontation in society and bring our legislatures back to honest problem solving. They have a temporary interest in helping Democrats disarm the amuck running New Republicans, but many would rather belong to a non-insane Republican Party. The Left bloggers just want high-paying political or journalistic jobs where they can tell everybody what's wrong with them.

As a good government advocate, I want to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures. As a Democrat, I plan to work to take over as many legislatures as possible and use that power for all it's worth after the 2010 census. I'd like to get rid of the Electoral College, but I'm planning an Electoral College strategy for 2008. I'm from the left side of the Democratic Party, but I do want to bring in more moderates (or convince more moderates that they should be Liberals).

The point of this pedantic exercise is to say that we need to sort out our objectives and not unnecessarily complicate things combining issues that don't need to be combined. The next time you hear a leftie shouting, "you're either with us or against us" and drawing a line in the sand, try to figure out which goal they are really pursuing at the moment. Then bludgeon them into silence and go find someone less silly to hang out with. Only spoiled rich idiots say things like "you're either with us or against us."

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